April 5th, 2011


Jim Cypher, R.I.P.

I just found out last night that my very first literary agent, Jim Cypher, passed away back in February. This is sad news. Jim and I didn't have a lot of contact these days, but we had recently reconnected on Facebook.

We met at one of the Bram Stoker Award Weekends at the Warwick Hotel in the mid-1990s, back when the event was situated in the heart of New York City and attended by luminaries like Harlan Ellison, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and musician-turned-horror-writer Greg Kihn. I met Jim standing outside the hotel as we were both enjoying a cigarette (I smoked back then) and we hit it off right away. Back inside he introduced me to an up-and-coming young author named Douglas Clegg, as well as other writers I would come to read and befriend. He was only my agent for a couple of years before he switched to repping non-fiction exclusively, but in that short time he taught me a lot about the business.

He couldn't sell my first finished novel, but that wasn't his fault. Looking back, I can see that the novel was crap. But his edits helped me strengthen it as best he could, and he believed in it, and in me, and as a result most of the rejections were near-misses rather than outright dismissals, despite how crappy the novel was.

Jim was a rebel. You could tell there was still something of the counterculture, right-on-man 1960s living inside him. It was the full beard, maybe, or the way he talked, or the way he sometimes shook your hand in that blood brothers, clasped thumbs way, like you were about to start arm wrestling.

Jim was a great guy, and he will be missed.